With such a busy itinerary, one almost expects to turn up at his Grosvenor Gardens office in London (a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace Gardens) and find Grossman buried beneath a mountain of paperwork that will take him from here until the end of the year to get through. Irritatingly, nothing could be further from the truth. A well-upholstered Chesterfield takes pride of place in a spotless greeting entrance, while around a dozen soft-lit, framed pictures of bears (a fetish from childhood) line the walls. Further in, the polished order continues as an antique bureau takes centre stage, flanked by a leather armchair and wall to wall bookshelves containing tomes on an array of subjects, from Hitler to fishing. All in all, the whole ensemble looks more like a secret sitting room in the heart of the City than a place of work, as neat and tidy as Grossman's Savile Row suit, coiffured hair and customary hornrimmed specs. But we're not here to chat about Grossman's housekeeping habits and talk initially turns to just exactly how this 51-year-old, who now flogs a range of cooking sauces on the back of his household name, became famous in the first place. "It was a pure accident," claims Grossman. "It happened while I was the restaurant critic at Harpers & Queen in 1982. TV-AM was getting ready to launch and they were looking for new faces to work as presenters. One of the producers suggested speaking to that chap who writes about restaurants in Harpers & Queen' and I got a telephone call asking me to try out. I did, got the job and then later found out that the producer in question had actually been thinking of Bevis Hillier who was the restaurant critic at Vogue." So a bit of luck then? But one that Grossman has put to more than good use ever since. Almost 20 years on, he is still fronting filmed snoops through the houses of the rich and famous for celebrity gameshow Through the Keyhole, which he co-presents with Sir David Frost, and the latest series was filmed and broadcast last year. However, he is now arguably just as well known for presenting the BBC's Glenfiddich Award-winning cookery programme MasterChef in which he puts everyday people under the culinary spotlight. Although Grossman's final MasterChef programme was broadcast in August 2000, the show ran for 10 years and is undoubtedly the vehicle which gave him an audience with the appetite to let him commercially indulge his passion for food. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1950, the young Grossman was rarely away from restaurants for too long, his parents Helen and David being self-confessed food nuts who travelled to find new places to eat with their two young sons. His mother's side of the family also ran a hot dog factory, meaning that Grossman is not the first of his clan to go into manufacturing. "There was always a family interest in food and I spent a large part of my childhood in restaurants," says Grossman. "It was one of the things we could all do and enjoy together." However, where Grossman has clearly differed from his family is in his choice of location to indulge his "hobby". After graduating with a history degree from Boston, where he wrote for rock magazine Rolling Stone in his spare time (he was the first American journalist to review Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon), he came to Britain in the early 1970s to study at the London School of Economics. Falling in love with London ("It's the greatest city in the world"), he decided to stay on and his first job was at Harpers & Queen. Some 30 years later and his main priority now is his burgeoning food label. Launching his first product in 1995, the range now includes nine pasta sauces, a Thai curry sauce, dressings, pasta and olive oil. Six new curry sauces also hit shelves last month with Grossman confidently boasting that they will "outperform existing brands on taste, texture and authenticity". Quite a claim, some might say, but Grossman's premium positioning for his brand has stood him in good stead so far. Last year the range, which according to Grossman's own press notices is aimed at "ABC1 consumers who don't want to compromise on quality or convenience", was worth more than £15m, up by 25% on the previous year and maintaining the level of growth which his brand has consistently achieved since launch. Not bad for a man who admits that his only qualification for producing his own range in the first place was his passion for home cooking and spending many hours trawling supermarket aisles looking for new products to try at home. He says: "I started thinking about things that I would like to buy and realised that many of them were not available. I thought that pasta sauce would be a good starting point, even though it is not difficult for people to make their own." However, Grossman admits that it was far from easy to get the venture off the ground and that the input of too many cooks threatened to spoil the proverbial broth at one stage. "It was incredibly difficult to go straight from a recipe to production. Having come up with what I believed was the right recipe it would then go into the hands of the production people who did not like the fact that it was made with olive oil or that it had real crushed tomatoes. My view was that if it was not going to have olive oil, and tomato purée instead of fresh tomatoes, then it would be just like all the other lousy sauces on the market." Strong words which are undoubtedly chosen through a spot of self interest but Grossman has at least stuck to his guns on price, something which he admits has led him into conflict with multiple buyers on at least one occasion. "I remember sitting with the buyer of one chain, which will remain nameless, and being absolutely stunned." he says. "I told him all about the ingredients and olive oil and so on, yet all he cared about was 99p for 500ml. I was absolutely horrified that someone who had the job of effectively choosing food for the public was only driven by price and volume." Even so, Grossman has now more than weathered that particular storm and claims that he still has great respect for British supermarkets, although he refuses to name his favourite grocery outlet and you get the feeling that his real views are being suppressed for a diplomatic line which won't land him in trouble with any of his customers. Attempts to get Grossman to talk about his family are also politely deflected, suffice to say that he lives in London with his wife and two daughters. However, he's not reluctant to chew the fat over his NHS drive to give hospital patients decent food and is quick to play down the criticism levelled against the leading chefs team' he has put together as head of the Better Hospital Food Panel. Accepting the position two years ago, the panel, which is overseeing a £40m drive to improve dreary hospital dishes, has rarely been far from the headlines with insults such as Loyd's Posh Nosh is Tosh' screaming from the nation's tabloids. The last wave of criticism came recently when patients in Lancashire complained that they didn't have a clue what was on the hospital menu because they could not understand the complicated French culinary terms Grossman had chosen. In an embarrassing climb-down at Blackburn Royal Infirmary, Grossman's Smoked Haddock Shantle became crispy coated fish' while Navarin of Lamb is now meat stewed in gravy'. Grossman seems unfazed, claiming that some bad press was always going to be inevitable. "Some of the coverage has been annoying," he admits, "but you can't let yourself be deflected by the criticisms in the media. Eventually the good news will filter through. To be honest, it has to be water off a duck's back because anything the NHS does will always be put under the microscope." It's that sort of philosophy which has done the thick-skinned Grossman proud so far. Who'd bet against it continuing to do so? n {{PROFILE }}